What makes Pilates so effective in improving posture and hence relieving one of the major causes of back pain is that it addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body. Issues like lack of core support, pelvic instability, muscular imbalances, poor posture, and lack of body awareness all affect back health. They are also issues that the Pilates techniques specialise in helping people improve their posture.
With Pilates exercises, body alignment is the focus of attention which is simply how the body parts are lined up in relation to one another. When we stand or sit, we usually think of our alignment as our posture, but good posture is a dynamic process, dependent on the body’s ability to align its parts to respond to varying demands effectively. When alignment is off, uneven stresses on the skeleton, especially the spine, are the result. Pilates exercises, done with attention to alignment, create uniform muscle use and development, allowing movement to flow through the body in a natural way.
One of the most common postural imbalances that people have is the tendency to either tuck or tilt the pelvis. Both positions create weaknesses on one side of the body and overly tight areas on the other. They deny the spine the support of its natural curves and create a domino effect of aches and pains all the way up the spine and into the neck. Pilates increases the awareness of the proper placement of the spine and pelvis, and creates the inner strength to support the natural curves of the spine. This is called having a neutral spine and it has been the key to better backs for many people.
Good posture that goes beyond the “look” of being aligned requires core strength. By achieving core strength will mean that all the muscles of the trunk of the body are very strong and have good flexibility, working together to give support to and stabilise the spine.
Core strength is deeper than the big surface muscles that we are used to thinking of as those of the trunk of the body, like the infamous 6-pack abs muscle or the beautiful big muscles of the back, popularly called “the lats.” The core muscles include the muscles that are below the surface musculature.
So while many forms of exercise focus on strengthening the big muscles, the ones we can see and that do big movements, Pilates trains the body so that all of the core muscles work together to support and stabilize the back. The body requires to be trained to know when to activate and release core muscles and this can be achieved by developing effective core body strength.So while core strength is the catch-all term, the core coherence that Pilates teaches is essential for back health.
Some of these less obvious but very important core muscles are the muscles of the pelvic floor; the psoas, which play a huge role in keeping us upright and in hip bending; the transversospinalis, the small muscles that are located along the spine; and the transverse and oblique abdominal muscles. The diaphragm, our prime breathing muscle, is right in the middle of the core. Where the body’s spine is concerned, all of these muscles play crucial roles in both the support and stability of the spine. When Pilates techniques are added to an exercise routine, it will ensure that the user gains optimum body posture resulting in the effect of appearing taller and leaner, but also of great importance, keeping many of the causes of back pain at bay.